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ROSES: James Reade, University of Reading

“On away fans at football matches”, work with Brad Humphreys, Dominik Schreyer and Carl Singleton

Abstract: The number of people watching a sporting event has long held significant interest for economists. Although imperfect, it is a measure of the demand for a peculiar type of good or service — a sporting event. It also provides some measure of the extent of social pressure exerted on the individuals performing. That pressure can be supportive, but it can also contribute to negative outcomes like choking on the part of performers. The extent to which a crowd is supportive or otherwise, however, is usually quite hard to be sure of. While in many contexts, such as for example many team sports in North America, the attendance may safely be categorised as entirely supporting the home team, this is not necessarily the case in some European contexts. One such context is English football, where historically fans have travelled often significant distances to observe their team.Does it matter for measurable outcomes if a non-trivial proportion of the attendance at a match vocally supports the visiting, or ‘away’, team? Additionally, can more be understood about the motivations of people to attend sporting events by better characterising their team allegiance?

Since the 1970s, these ‘home’ and ‘away’ fans have been segregated into different parts of the stadium in the top four divisions. In this paper we introduce a novel dataset detailing reported numbers of away fans at matches in England over recent years. We spend time characterising the dataset, and considering potential uses for it. One such example might be an evaluation of the public resource impact of significant numbers of fans travelling significant distances at particular points in the week, and another might be the environmental impact. We then perform some exploratory analysis, considering some basic explanatory variables for attendances disaggregated into home and away contingents, and we also look at a basic question of concern to football fans, and one considered in the literature previously: to what extent does fan presence influence outcomes? We consider a slight twist, by considering whether the likelihood of an away win is influenced by the number of away fans in attendance.

We find evidence of different preferences for home vs away fans; for home fans, the population of the visiting team’s local area is irrelevant, while for away fans the population of the home team’s local area is important. For away fans, whether or not the team remains in contention for any of the end-of-season prizes matters much more than for home fans, reflecting the greater cost of attending away matches. We find some evidence that the number of away fans may have a small impact on match outcomes.

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23rd September 2022
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
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James Reade
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